Have you ever seen one of those plate-spinning acts? The performer runs around on stage placing plates on top of long sticks and setting them spinning. They often run back and forth doing other things too like flipping cups and spoons, adding more plates, all the while keeping the main plates spinning atop their seemingly unstable perches. (If you’ve never seen such a performance, check out Erich Brenn on the Ed Sullivan Show YouTube channel to see what I’m talking about).
Do you ever feel like that’s your life? Metaphorically, to keep a bunch of plates spinning without letting any crash to the floor? In working with schools, one place we see master “plate-spinners” is in administration and front offices. School secretaries, in fact, have so many varied job responsibilities we often wonder how they manage to keep everything going without plates smashing to the ground left and right!
Trying to Do It All
To get a better idea of just how busy a day in the life of a school secretary can be, we talked with our friend Tammy who works in the front office of one of our local elementary schools. As a parent with students who also attend the school, Tammy puts her heart into the work she does as a secretary, and she is very good at it. We asked her about the challenges she faces as she keeps up with all her spinning plates.
In school administration, there are lots of demands on your time. And it is not just a matter of sitting down and completing a task; there are many interruptions that arise throughout the day. Tammy mentioned just a few of the tasks that she handles every day: “For the front office, every day brings a different opportunity. Enrolling new students, helping students, parents, and teachers, general office work, attendance, letters, filing, ordering supplies, scheduling field trips or special events, processing payments, newsletters, and the list goes on—all done with a smile! As far as administration goes, there are student issues, teacher issues, observations, district meetings, and so on. And every year it seems like new software is introduced and more demands are put in place…”
Tammy sings the praises of the staff at their elementary school, saying everyone is “willing to pitch in and help whenever needed.” We imagine your school runs the same way—with employees and staff asked to step in to various roles regardless of their technical job descriptions—that’s how many good organizations run.
Among core responsibilities is the daunting challenges of effective school communication. This duty is ongoing and will never be considered complete. Communications related to your school in all of its varieties requires ongoing effort and diligence to keep it alive—or at least on life support.
However, school communications is often one of those “other duties as assigned” that gets doled out to various staff members regardless of experience, expertise, or time available to dedicate to the task. You may have noticed a few of Tammy’s assignments included sending out letters, scheduling special events, and writing the newsletter. These are vital aspects of effective school communications. Along with the rest of her responsibilities, that’s a lot to demand of a school secretary. Tammy admits, “There are so many items to communicate that unfortunately some do fall through the cracks.”
Tammy listed a lot that goes on in a school’s front office. Considering the diverse demands on school administration and the number of students in your charge, can you see why we chose a spinning-plate act for the visual of this blog? How do you do it all? And there is always something more you could do, but where would you find the time?
Let’s say your school’s front office is equally busy. What duties are essential for the day-to-day success of the school? We asked Tammy, and she said it perfectly:
“[Our essential duty is] to service the children—give them the best possible education they can get and prepare them for life in the future. All kids need to learn how to problem solve, get along with others, and more, as well as learn reading, writing, and math. We are preparing them to be the future generation—some come to us with no skills and need a smile or hug to get them through. The ‘tough’ ones are the ones I love the most—when you find that ‘thing’ that they respond to—it is an amazing feeling.”
Did you notice that school communication is not a priority? And that’s okay! In fact, we hope the response would be similar regardless of who we asked at your school—we imagine any teacher, principal, or school janitor would say that their priority is to serve the children that attend your school. And that’s just the way it should be!
So why do we make such a fuss about the importance of school communications?
Because it matters to your ability to serve the children who attend your school. It matters—immensely—but it doesn’t need to be your priority. Let it be ours. Let us help you!
School Communications Matter
Communication fails at times because it requires more resources than are available in the typical school scenario. Tammy says, “If we are not up-to-date with the calendar/marquee/robo calls, parents do not know what is going on.” And that means more work for Tammy! When parents don’t know what’s going on. She has to spend more time fielding calls and helping parents find the information they need.
School communications require constancy to be current and effective. Demands on your time, as well as demands on the time of those tasked with helping you, means communications will sometimes fall by the wayside.
Let’s look at updating a school website, for example. Typically, when we see an outdated website, it’s disappointing—like when the performer’s plate falls off the stick it’s spinning on. For a school, habitually outdated school websites can have negative effects on public relations. Outdated school websites are less productive and drain time and energy from your school.
Did you know it takes our professional website updaters an average of 15 minutes per website update request. Keep in mind, that’s our average. And we’re really fast because it’s all we do day in and day out! Some website update requests take longer (like building a new page for your site), some are much quicker (like adding an event to your school calendar). Our clients average between 15 and 46 update requests per month. Add it all together and that’s between 4 and 10 hours per month per site.
With your school’s various challenges and demands, do you feel like your efforts in regard to your school website and school communications are where you’d like them to be?
We asked Tammy what communications factors she considers essential for her school. She shared that they have so many ways and reasons to share information that they could really use a full-time person just to focus on school communications. In fact, she shared that when she first started, the school did a semi-monthly newsletter, but due to time constraints, they now send it only once a month.
Fit In School Communications without Adding More Spinning Plates
So, what’s the best way to fit school communications in without adding more spinning plates to your school administrators and staff to-do lists?
We asked Tammy what would help make school communication more manageable and what aspects she would consider outsourcing if she could. Tammy mentioned, “One program that does it all! It would be nice to only have to enter things one time and have it update everything, [and reach] more people!”
We love Tammy’s suggestion. Wouldn’t it be nice to enter information in just one place and have all your communication channels get updated? We think so! That’s why we’ve developed a system where it makes it as easy as possible for you to keep your school websites and social media updated with minimal time from your staff.
Now, typically, we don’t like to make our blogs into sales pitches. In fact, our main blog goal is to provide relevant, useful information to help school professionals maintain and manage their school communications. Our company goal is to be your school’s communication partner, and we do that by striving to help you balance your spinning plate act. We try to take on the tasks that we know your staff and administrators don’t have time for. What follows is a simple picture of how our service works and saves time for your staff.
How It Works
You’ll still need to gather the news, stories, photos, and event information for your school website to do it for you. Once you have your information, just like Tammy suggested, there is just one place you need to send it: SubmitAnUpdate.com
Submitting a request is as easy as sending an email. If you’d like to see how our update request portal works, feel free to watch our “How to Submit An Update” video.
Once we receive your request, we handle all updates, changes, additions, and improvements to your school’s website. That includes checking your website for grammar errors, outdated links, and old content. We even help you keep your site ADA compliant.
The best part is that no one on your team needs to learn HTML or waste time watching training videos for a frustrating content management system (CMS).
We even send out reminders to designated staff members to gather the information and write the content that will keep your website up to date. And if you really want to take the pressure off your staff, we can hire someone from your local community to help coordinate your communication efforts.
Your IT, teaching, and administrative staff usually have their hands full with core responsibilities, and expecting them to be designers, writers, and managers of the school websites and social media content is unrealistic. Letting School Webmasters help you with your school communications provides you with the skill sets you need without overburdening an already busy staff.
In reality, who of us can get it all done well without a little help? Here at School Webmasters, our aim is to provide an excellent product and keep that product up to date so you can focus on what matters most—your students.
Katie Brooks, Public Relations Director, School Webmasters, LLC.
Check out these School Website articles: